Appointments, Confirmations & Budgets

Official Word on Stephen Preston

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 2:53 PM

The White House has now officially announced the President's intent to nominate Stephen Preston as General Counsel of the Pentagon.

The statement says in relevant part:

Stephen W. Preston, Nominee for General Counsel, Department of Defense
Stephen W. Preston is General Counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency.  Prior to his appointment in 2009, he was a partner at WilmerHale, where he was Co-Chair of the Defense and National Security Practice.  He joined WilmerHale in 1986, and later returned in 2001 after serving at both the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of Justice.  From 1998 to 2000, Mr. Preston was General Counsel of the Department of the Navy.  From 1995 to 1998, he was Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice.  From 1993 to 1995, Mr. Preston was Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Department of Defense, during which time he also served as Acting General Counsel.  Mr. Preston received a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

CIA Director John Brennan sent around the following message to the agency's workforce:

Subject: Message from the Director:  President Obama to Nominate Stephen Preston as DOD General Counsel


The White House today announced President Obama’s intent to nominate our General Counsel, Stephen Preston, to be General Counsel of the Department of Defense.  The White House statement is attached below.

Over the past four years, Stephen has well and faithfully served three CIA Directors and the men and women of our Agency, not only as the chief legal officer but also as a leader among Executive Branch lawyers in confronting challenges at the confluence of law and national security.

Stephen played a major role within the Administration in developing a firm, common understanding of the legal framework governing the use of force in US Government counterterrorism operations abroad.  He has been a strong advocate of explaining that legal framework to Congress and, within the constraints of protecting national security information, to the American people.

As my senior legal advisor, he has provided excellent legal counsel as well as sound judgment as a member of the Agency’s leadership team.  In addition, during his watch, the Office of General Counsel has undergone organizational changes—relating to investigation support, ethics advice, and acquisition integrity—so that OGC can better meet the needs of the Agency.

Stephen was awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal and the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal last year in recognition of his efforts during the run-up to the operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in which Usama Bin Ladin was brought to justice.

On behalf of all of us at CIA, I wish Stephen the very best in the appointment process and thank him for his profound contributions to our Agency and to the Nation’s security, past, present, and future.

Preston's former boss, Leon Panetta, also has nice words:

Stephen Preston is a talented attorney and counselor who will scrupulously apply the Constitution and the law to our military operations.  He served by my side when I was CIA Director and was highly influential in the behind-the-scenes efforts to stay on the offense against Al Qa'ida.  He values, above all, the rule of law.  He is non-partisan and effective---and is exactly the kind of person we want as General Counsel at the Department of Defense.